One of the smaller teams to make big headway over the last season at the World Cup level was that of Unior Tools with the outstanding consistency in cross country racing of Slovenian Tanja Žakelj. With two junior and one U23 world championships in her past, Žakelj’s highest finish last season was a 2nd place in Windham, but by riding in the top 10 all season she started this year ranked 3rd. She has yet to break into the top 10 at the first two rounds of this year’s World Cup series, but has a few weeks off before the next cross country races to work on her form.
We’d been talking to Unior Tools about testing some of their European-made tools that show up a lot in the pits of World Tour races, so were happy to drop in for a chat with Unior’s pro mechanics and team manager. The gave us the low-down on Žakelj’s bike, but also on some standout tools from the Slovenian company.
Have a look at a few custom setup tricks from her mechanics after the break on an otherwise fairly stock ride…
Even though we saw the unlabeled IsoSpeed hardtail and reboot of the Top Fuel under the Trek Factory Racing Team riders last week, the racers on all of the other top Trek-sponsored teams are still riding the current bikes. Unior Tools is one of those, with their racers aboard standard Superfly carbon hardtails. Žakelj’s small sized bike was set up with a SRAM XX1 drivetrain, carbon Rise 60 wheels, and Schwalbe Racing Ralph rubber.
Her Unior mechanics were quick to point out that they had built Žakelj’s bike with a 28T direct mount chainring in Nové Město to tackle some of the steep, slippery climbs. It was definitely the smallest ring we’ve seen on a pro XC bike, yet. The team gets custom Project One graphics on their frames, as do the RS1 forks with a custom team stripes decals. In addition to her thick 32.3mm Lizard Skins DSP grips, Žakelj gets a unique brake setup with the new SRAM Guide RSC brakes. Instead of using the standard aluminum levers that we saw on the bike of Kulhavý, hers were put together with the new carbon blades, making them an interim solution before larger quantities of the new Guide Ultimates are available.
Several of the Unior support team come from a gravity riding background and sounded like they were wary of lightweight parts just to save a few grams, instead favoring a tried and true approach to component choice. That means that the team bikes don’t end up with the super tuned carbon bits we saw on a bunch of other pro bikes, or even the top level wheels. Instead they use proven tech, and with Žakelj’s bike still get it down to a respectable 9.17kg (20.22lbs) ready to race.
The team’s head mechanic went through his tool box with us to have a look at what they felt were some of the best offerings from the company for everyday use, and to suggest what we might try out. The shape of the T-handle hex and torx wrenches seemed to fit really nicely in the hand, and the build quality of the wire cutters seemed second to none. He even said he uses it to cut spokes out of wheels without any lasting wear. One other useful tool they had to deal with frequent drivetrain swaps is a new quick cassette puller, which replaces a chain whip. This XX1/XO1-friendly update includes longer pegs on the 12T side to reach over SRAM’s small 10 tooth, and has an 11T set of posts on the other side to make it fit any typical cassette with either an 11 or 12 toothed cog (including of course SRAM single ring options that have a 10, plus a 12.) Unior has been working on improving their US distribution, and looks to have made some good progress selling in the states with mostly black branded tool handles. We’ll take a deeper tool look at one of the next DH World Cups and see what we might want to try out ourselves to give our readers a deeper insight.